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Entering my senior year at the University of Delaware I am reflecting on how much I have grown in my time here, especially through service and community engagement. While I did volunteer work in high school, the needs of the community were not an everyday priority in how I lived my life. Being an active citizen who understands community issues, listens and works with community partners, and prioritizes their needs on a daily basis is an ongoing journey. While I consider myself to be passionate and involved in service, I know I have to work every day to continue to be an involved active citizen. This semester it just so happens that most of my service oriented activities fall on Monday, so here is my Monday schedule, full of great opportunities on campus that you can get involved in!
Once I’m ready to take on the day I head out the door to volunteer at the Newark Planned Parenthood. I work in the Sexuality and Education Training Institute, so my daily tasks range from preparing educational games, to analyzing media for healthy and unhealthy relationship lesson plans, to typing up student survey results. I’m overjoyed while preparing this inclusive education, seeing such a wide range of identities represented in the classroom and knowing students of all kind will feel included and accepted by their educator. When I think about my own high school health education I can’t recall learning about any LGBTQ+ identities, anyone who was not straight sat in class silently wondering if they were accepted by their teacher and peers. This is worlds away from the education that our students get, and the fact that they’ll be accepted and understood in the classroom for who they are is the reason I volunteer.
After I finish volunteering I head straight to my two political science classes of the day. My favorite class is the National Agenda Series, which corresponds with the public lecture series hosted by the Center for Political Communication. This year’s theme is As We Stand, Divided. The series hosts speakers from various backgrounds to discuss how we can come together despite our differences and the divides they have personally dealt with, such as gender, race, religion, and partisan. We’ve talked with incredible people such as an Appalachian author, a Muslim NPR reporter who covered the 2016 election, former Vice President Joe Biden, and a comedian whose parents emigrated from Cuba. This class has opened me up to so many new perspectives and has humanized these issues. Getting to know someone who you may disagree with on certain issues allows you both to have engaging and respectful conversations where you’re both able to learn and understand one another.
Next up I head to my Community Engagement Ambassadors meeting. Being surrounded by people from different backgrounds who all share the same passion and drive for community service is inspiring. This week we discuss future plans for getting more students involved in community service and what organizations and causes we would like to partner with for our next days of service. We’ve held two builds with Habitat for Humanity so far this semester. I rarely participate in hard-skills service like this, but every time I do I am reminded how rewarding it is, being able to look at the home you’ve helped build and know a family will now be able to live their safely.
My second meeting of the day is one that I run, as I am president of the RSO Planned Parenthood Generation Action. We are dedicated to raising awareness about women’s reproductive rights, the public policies regarding them, and advocating for those rights. Discussing these topics and how they affect us and people across the globe with such a passionate group of people always inspires us to take action. This semester we wrote letters to President Assanis expressing our concern over national policies regarding protections for victims of sexual assault, and he and the administration quickly responded to us and the rest of campus, promising that UD’s protections and resources for survivors would remain in place.
My final meeting of the day! I am on the executive board for University of Delaware Alternative Breaks (UDaB) as the Community Engagement Chair. Our mission is to provide students with direct service opportunities where they can learn about community organizations and social justice issues. We send programs out during winter and spring breaks, by my co-chair and I focus on arranging local days of service throughout the year for our members to learn about and give back to the Delaware community. Setting up days of service has connected me with so many wonderful community partners I had never worked with before, such as Stockings for Soldiers, Bright Spot Ventures, and Sunday Breakfast Mission. I’ve loved the past two spring programs I’ve went on to Pittsburgh and Atlanta, but my position now reminds me that there is plenty of need for service in our own backyard.
I’m home and done after my long day and know I need to take time to give myself a mental break. It’s important to put your full self into the work that you do, but it’s necessary to give yourself a break and practice self-care when you need it, otherwise no one will benefit from your work. The University of Delaware has so many opportunities to get involved on campus, I’m grateful to have found the organizations I work with best, and the Community Engagement Ambassadors are happy to help you find the organizations best for you too.
Article by Jenny Proebstle. Jenny is a senior double major in Political Science & Women and Gender Studies from Millersville, Md. In addition to being a Community Engagement Ambassador, she is President of Planned Parenthood Generation Action, Community Engagement Chair for UD Alternative Breaks, and a Public Administration Fellow with the Institute for Public Administration.